By Joseph Garcia —

University of Louisville students laced up their dancing shoes, put on their headbands and cracked open cases of energy drinks to keep the energy high for RaiseRed this year.

The 18-hour dance marathon serves as the culmination of a yearlong fundraising event for research to end pediatric cancer and blood disease.

This year, RaiseRed dancers raised $682,483.71.

All of the funds are donated to the University of Louisville’s pediatric oncology and hematology clinic.

Hannah Esrock, one of the sponsorship coordinators for the event, was able to be a part of the reveal. In shock and tears, Esrock described the moment as the closest thing to heaven.

Sophomore Becca Jackson was among the many students who stayed for the full 18 hours.

“When I saw the reveal, I instantly forgot all of the pain in my legs, all of the exhaustion went away. In that moment I knew it was all worth it,” Jackson said.

Sophomore Patrick McSweeney said, “RaiseRed is an organization of truly passionate students looking to make a difference in the lives of kids with cancer and wanting to find a cure and that’s exactly what I want to do, too.”

McSweeney has been battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) since 2004. Since his first diagnosis, he has beaten his cancer more than six times.

This year, McSweeney raised over $10,000 after raising $31,050 last year.

“The reward of seeing the total amount raised at the end of the marathon and knowing the meaning behind it gives you an indescribable feeling if you’re passionate about the cause,” McSweeney said. “Especially to someone like me who has personally dealt with cancer.”

Along with battling cancer, McSweeney is a full-time student at U of L in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. His advice to college students who battle cancer is to keep their priorities straight.

“Do what you can as best you can in your classes, but you obviously need to focus on the fight first,” McSweeney said. “School is important, but your life is the highest priority.”

Photo by David Mucker / The Louisville Cardinal